Topical group news

Jim Isenberg, TGG secretary, University of Oregon

Since the summer is a relatively quiet time for TGG activity, not much has happened since the April meeting in Columbus. So most of our news is contained in the following excerpts from the minutes of the Columbus meeting.

1) Officers and Committees.

The list of officers and committee members for the coming year are as follows:

Chair: Abhay Ashtekar

Chair Elect: Rainer Weiss

Vice Chair: Cliff Will

Secretary/Treasurer (1996-1999): Jim Isenberg

Delegates (1998-2001): Steve Carlip, Peter Saulson

Delegates (1997-2000): Lee Samuel Finn, Mac Keiser

Delegates (1996-1999): Frederick Raab, Leonard Parker

Nominating Committee: not yet chosen

Fellowship Committee: Cliff Will, Bill Hamilton, Richard Price

Program Committee: Rai Weiss, David Shoemaker, Beverly Berger

Editor MOG and Webmaster: Jorge Pullin

2) On New Members.

The TGG is a very rapidly growing, at least so far. We have about 530 members. It was noted that if we get to 1200 (which is approximately 3% of the total APS membership) we could qualify as a division. One source of new members we might push is our students.The first year of a student membership is free.

3) Hartle Committee Discussion.

Every ten years, the National Research Council sponsors an in-depth assessment of the past accomplishments, current state, and future prospects of physics research in a number of fields. This year, for the first time, a committee was appointed to prepare a separate book on gravitational physics.. Jim Hartle, who chairs this committee, led a discussion at the general meeting, with the emphasis on soliciting opinions from the members of the TGG regarding the state of gravitational physics research. There was discussion on the adequacy of research support; on interdisciplinary work with data analysis people, math people, computer people, and optics people; on the possibility of instituting summer schools focussing on gravitational physics (like TASI for the particle physics people, and the AMS-run summer schools in math), and a number of other topics. Jim Hartle noted that the deadline for input is essentially the beginning of May, and then the report will be put together.

4) Centenary Meeting.

The next APS ``April Meeting" will be in March 1999 in Atlanta, and it will mark the APS' Centenary. This will be the TGG's annual meeting, and plans for the meeting were discussed. We are promised 2 invited sessions, plus one ``Centennial Symposium". The ``Centennial Symposia" are essentially the same as the focus sessions of this year's meeting, but intended for a broader audience. Beverly Berger will be our liaison with APS in scheduling the Centennial Symposia. Rai Weiss will be our liaison for the general program, including the invited sessions.

There was a report by Phil Lindquist on the proposed display for the Centennial meeting. As approved earlier by members of the Executive Committee, it will focus on gravitational radiation --sources, detection, history of ideas-- with LIGO featured. We have been allotted an 8 x 10 space, although we may argue for a bigger space. A rough tentative plan was shown. The tentative cost --$10,000-- was discussed. After much discussion, the committee generally agreed to support one third of the cost, up to $3000. LIGO will pay for the rest. Some people noted that the rough sketch of the display contained too much material. All agreed that it will be important to make the display accessible, both to those interested only in a quick perusal, and those who want to learn about gravitational radiation in a bit more detail.

5) Viewpoint on Our Role in APS and These Meetings.

Since the APS meetings are expensive, and consequently not that well attended, the possibility was brought up that we might have the TGG annual meeting at one of the 3 regional meetings on a rotating basis. This issue brought up the question of what the role of the TGG is, regarding the gravitational researcher community, and the rest of the physics community. All at the meeting supported the idea that a major function of this group is to raise the visibility of gravitational physics. This led to strong support for keeping our meeting at one of the large APS meetings. It also led to the view that we have some stake in the continued existence of the April meeting, and that we should be involved in its evolution.

This led to the issue of attracting more people, especially students, to the April APS meetings. There was general agreement that we should spend some of our surplus to provide travel support to students. This could start next year, although no plan for implementing the suggestion was discussed.

6) Prizes

Since last year, some of the members of the Executive Committee have been discussing and researching the possibility of instituting an APS sponsored prize for gravitational physics. Abhay Ashtekar outlined the various possibilities allowed by the APS:

i) Senior Prize: These are tightly controlled by the APS. They want them to be around $10,000, to be awarded at least every other year, and they want very strong assurances that we have 10 years of worthy candidates. So to do this sort of prize would require a lot of paper work, and a lot of fund raising (at least $200,000) ii) Junior Prize: This could be an early career or post-doc award. Less funding and justification is needed. iii) Dissertation Prize: These are not strongly controlled. We could likely institute one without too much work or fund-raising.

While the senior award would take by far the most effort to institute, there was strong support for it. The justification was that it would be the best way to enhance the visibility of the field. Since funding is a big issue, it was decided to pursue discrete, quiet, attempts to locate possible funding sources. Such sources need to be identified before proceeding further with plans to set up a prize.

It was noted that we might also try to set up a junior level prize, but wait on this until the funding inquiries have been made.

Jorge Pullin
Mon Sep 7 17:37:02 EDT 1998